Come to the Fountain


JEREMIAH 17:5-13

Listen to Come to the Fountain

come to the fountain

Dave Huhn is a sheriff’s deputy in Montezuma, Colorado. AS NPR reports, one Sunday morning several years ago, Huhn got a call from a frantic woman who was screaming over the phone as she watched her 82 year old husband from the window. She was screaming because their 86 year old neighbor was beating her husband with a shovel.

What brought these two gentlemen in their eighties to blows? One man had accused the other of stealing. But what did he steal? It wasn’t money, riches, or pearls. No these men came to blows over water. One man accused the other of taking more than his fair share of water from an irrigation ditch, leaving not enough for everyone else. To quote the article, “ the situation escalated from the point that their shovels transformed from farm tools into weapons.”

It may seem strange for us on the East Coast to hear about people coming to blows over water out west. But that is because water is a plentiful resource where we live. But science shows that when things that are important to us become scarce we can fall into what psychologists call the scarcity trap.  The scarcity trap causes us to focus on only what we don’t have. It can cause us to make short term decisions based on that one thing we don’t have, neglecting all the things we do have, leading to negative long term consequences.

Perhaps at one point in our lives we have lacked money. Sometimes when we lack money and receive an influx of cash we will go on a spending spree, which hurts us in the long term. But when we’re starving for cash we are not thinking of the long term. We are not thinking about how we can improve our station in life. We don’t have the bandwidth to do so. We are just thinking of how to get to the next paycheck. We are just thinking about how to get by week to week.

Or perhaps sometime in our lives we have lacked friends. Focusing on the friends you don’t have can make it harder to make friends because you work too hard to be liked.  Being lonely can make someone needy. Which can make them not fun to hang out with, which results in them being even more lonely.

Or perhaps sometime in our lives we have been pressed for time. We can become so pressed for time and how to manage our time that other things that are important in the long term, like rest and relationships, can fall to the wayside.  We can end up successful but burnt out and alone.

Often the behaviors of others may baffle us, especially when people are hitting each other with shovels. But what is scarce for them is not scarce for us. Or what is important to them is not important to us. But when what is important to us has been scarce in our own lives we may recall times where our behavior has been less than ideal.

In our passage today the LORD through the prophet Jeremiah is dealing with the scarcity trap by calling his people back to him, the fountain of living water.  In Jeremiah chapter two the LORD says his people have committed two evils. First, they have forsaken him the fountain of living water for other gods, second they have hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13).

Much of Israel, like Colorado, is part of an arid climate. The summer months can be very dry. So what people did is carve out holes, or cisterns, out of solid rock. These cisterns were pear shaped, fifteen to twenty feet deep, with an opening that was two to three feet wide.  Ancient workers would cover the surface of the cistern with lime plaster to prevent the water from leaking out through pores in the rock. But often this plaster would crack, and slowly but surely the water would leak out.

And that is how we are as Christians. We Christians have the Holy Spirit inside of us. But when we worship and study His word can be filled with more of the Holy Spirit. But the problem is we leak. The problem is Sunday to Sunday we are the walking wounded. And though we can be filled, we need a refill because we are leaking.   From Sunday to Sunday we may be filled with living water. But the problem is we leak.  But there is good news.

The Good News: When we come to the fountain of living water our hearts shall become fountains of living water.  How does the LORD make our hearts fountains of living water?

  1. He sifts
  2. He satisfies.

First, when we come to the fountain of living water the LORD will sift our hearts and the hearts of others. Like a river running through our souls, the Holy Spirit can sift us, washing away anything that is keeping us from the LORD and keeping us from others. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the prophet Jeremiah was having a rough time. He is being imprisoned and persecuted for preaching the Word of the LORD. So it is understandable that Jeremiah as a young man, under a lot of pressure, has some trust issues. Jeremiah cries out in his pain,

“The heart is deceitful above all things; and desperately sick;” And the LORD doesn’t disagree with Jeremiah. Earlier in the passage the LORD declares,

“ Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns in man whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” ( Jeremiah 17:5-6). The LORD’s solution to Jeremiah’s woes is to say this,

“ I the LORD search the heart and test the kidneys,”

That’s right. The LORD not only searches our hearts, he tests our kidneys. Now I know what you are thinking. And no, the LORD is not involved in the black market organ trade. Okay maybe that wasn’t what you were thinking, maybe I was just projecting what I was thinking on you, the LORD knows. While various translation may translate the second Hebrew word as reigns, or mind, the exact word is kidneys. Of course, this is a metaphorical expression, just like the heart is a metaphorical expression.

My research suggest that in the Hebrew mind the heart was the center of our being, our thought, our will. It is your character. Anyone who has ever had kids know they come out with some pre-programming. They come out with a disposition. They come out with a character. It is not all nurture. There is something built in. And that is what our heart is. It is the thing that is more consistent day to day.

The kidneys, in the Hebrew mind represented the seat of our strong emotions. And our emotions fluctuate, day to day, week to week,  moment to moment, maybe some of your emotions are fluctuating as I am preaching this sermons. What the LORD says is He searches our heart, he searches our character, and he tests our kidneys or strong emotions.  If we think about what we learned from modern medical science that sort of make sense. Because our Kidneys filter toxins in our blood. And if we have too many toxins in our blood it can cause our kidneys to fail and we can become sick.  What I think the LORD is saying is he searches our character to form us in his image, and he tests our strong emotions, both our positive and negative emotions, that we may be conformed to his word and conformed to reality.  Because sometimes our emotions don’t always express what is actually going on. Sometime our perception of the world is not how things actually are.

Second, we see that the LORD satisfies us. As the LORD says in Jeremiah, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8). Today, when people say I have faith in God, what they generally mean is they have come to accept certain doctrines or theological statements about God. And while this is an aspect of the Christian Faith, both the Greek and Hebrew word for faith also have the connotation of trust, confidence, safety, feeling carefree around someone. To trust God means to feel carefree before God and before each other. And isn’t that essentially what we want in our relationships, in our churches, to be carefree with each other and with God. To know that God is out for our good.

But that doesn’t mean anything goes.  Anyone who has tried to be in a relationship knows that if your rule is anything goes than nothing goes. We need rules to build trust. But rules are not enough. We need more than that to be satisfied. We need to be carefree with each other. The solution is to know that Love seeks the good of the other.  We are looking out for each other’s good. Even when we disagree we are looking out for each others good. And when we know we are looking out for each others good we can trust the Lord and we can trust each other.

Perhaps we are not satisfied in our spiritual lives because while we like the idea of being planted by a stream that does not run dry, we do not like the idea of being sifted by that stream. We want to be satisfied but not sifted. And we can’t have one without the other.

Such was the case in the Gospel of John when Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman by a Jacob’s well. Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along in Jesus’ day. Basically the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrian Empire and through many generations the Samaritans married some of the foreigners that had invaded their country. Thus they were seen as ethnically impure. The Samaritans used some parts of the Hebrew Bible but not others. And while the Jews said the best place to worship was in Jerusalem the Samaritans worshiped in another location. Thus the Samaritans were also heretics in the eyes of Jews. So reading the Gospel of John we are surprised that Jesus insisted on passing through Samaria. He did so because he had a divine appointment who needed to be sifted and satisfied.

It was about noon, in the heat of the day, when Jesus came to this well. He was tired and he stopped to rest. A Samaritan woman came to draw water in the middle of the day. This was highly unusual. Usually, people would wait till the cool of the evening to draw water. This implied that the woman was not on good terms with people in her community.  The woman coming to the well at noon suggested that she was an outcast.

Jesus asked this woman to draw a drink for him from the well. The woman was rather startled. She told Jesus that she was a Samaritan and he was a Jew and the two did not associate together. Jesus replied, “ If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10). The woman asked Jesus where he was to get this water for he had no bucket or rope to draw water from the well. Jesus replied, “ Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up into eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).

The woman replied, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus told her, “ Go, call your husband and come back.” The woman replied, “ I have no husband.” Jesus said, “ You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Who knows what scarcity lead this woman into the situation she was in. Maybe all her husbands had died. In that day she would be forced to remarry her husband’s closet relative to survive.  Perhaps after five husbands dying she just gave up on having a normal life and decided to live with this man. Perhaps she had been an abusive situation. Perhaps her husband’s kept getting tired of her and divorcing her. In that day Jewish men could divorce their wives for any reasons. Perhaps she had a deep sense that she wasn’t worthy of love. Perhaps her own insecurities caused her to jump to man to man. Perhaps a thousand things happened. But whatever happened, the woman knew that Jesus knew what happened.

Jesus didn’t condemn her. He saw into her heart as he sees into each of your heart today. And he does not condemn you. Instead he offers you living water.


She runs to her village, back to the people who had shamed her, for now she is unashamed. And she  “ Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). And because of the living water welling up out of her the people come, they come in droves to be filled with living water. For this woman has been sifted and satisfied.

How many of us run away from the fountain when he sifts us not to return with a town but to go off into a far off country to fill ourselves with everything that doesn’t fill us? And the Father waits down by the water, down by the living water, with longing expectation, for his Sons and Daughters to be returned home that they may be healed, that their hearts may be full, that we may no longer be the walking wounded, but we may claim our inheritance, as Sons and Daughters of God.

Oh Lord, as a deer pants for streams of water, so our souls thirst for God, for the living God. Why are our souls downcast? Why is there this restlessness within us? Let us put our hope in God, for we shall praise him once again our God. Deep calls out to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; as your water sweeps over us, as your breakers sweep over us.   By day you direct your steadfast love,  what the scriptures call your  Hesed, your Hesed. At night your song is still with us. So today let us let go and go with the flow that we may sifted and we may be satisfied. That streams of living water may flow out of us. For when they flow out of us they will come. They will come from Norfolk. They will come from Portsmouth. They will come from Newport News. They will come from Virginia beach to drink. And they will come. They will come to the fountain.

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